I have a lot to say about Taiwan but I have to get the most important thing out of the way first: food. Taiwan is known as one of the food capitals of Asia, second only to Singapore. It was the one thing almost everyone mentioned when I said I was going to Taiwan.
But you know when something is so hyped up, the actual thing is a disappointment? That’s what I was thinking. After all, with all my traveling in China I’m no stranger to street food. Could Taiwan really be so much better?
Turns out yes, yes and YES. The street food of Taiwan wasn’t just good, it was ah-maaaaaaze-ing. Night markets are a huge part of Taiwanese culture (not just for tourists) but aside from that every block had at least one person, usually more, cooking up something unique, cheap and amazing.In my entire two weeks I didn’t eat at a normal restaurant once, and I wasn’t even tempted by the western food available because I didn’t want to waste time or stomach space eating something I’ve had before.
My favorite word in Chinese is 饼，bing, which means a round, flat cake. Many, many things are called bing’s in China and I’m happy to try them all. This was my first street food in Taiwan, a kind of flat bread with an egg cooked on the bottom, then decorated with a sauce of my choice. Yummmmm.
Okay, I didn’t try this one because it’s all fish and strange flavors. But it looks pretty cool right? You choose what you want and then the laoban, or boss, boils it up for you in a flavorful broth.
Golden fried potatoes and yams and root veggies. You scoop what you want into a bowl, then the lady adds some flavoring (sweet, with some cinnamon, but also salty), wraps it up in a paper bag and hands it to you. It’s pretty greasy but delicious.
This might look a little gross, pink fatty sausage, but it is the famous “Taiwan flavored” sausage that I see also sold in China. Made of real meat, not the ground up crap in hot dogs, this has a slightly sweet, slightly tangy flavor. It also has a lot of fat in it making it incredibly juicy and delicious. Most stalls have a variety of sauces you can brush on the outside, like teriyaki, garlic, spicy and so on. This was the only street food I actively searched out almost every night. I liked it that much.
One night me and my local friend Hao went to a street market. I asked what he recommended I try and he got these gelatinous balls with different flavor pastes inside. The pastes were a bit dry, but had flavors like chocolate, strawberry and melon. They were sweet and delicious.
A BBQ place ready for the night.
I’m not a seafood fan but I will admit this looked good (though not if you’re a crab…)
This was my lunch for a few days as it was right near the hostel. You grab a plate or a to-go container and choose whatever you want. They throw on a scoop of rice, give you some chopsticks and your good to go. Most places were really popular and the food had a high turnover and freshly cooked food was constantly being added.
Dirty little street food. Heh heh. You could get these waffles covered in chocolate sauce (or others) and then take naughty pictures. Needless to say, these were quite popular.
Noodles! My friend Jaddy introduced these to me. Just because it’s street food doesn’t mean it’s convenient. The little stalls or shops usually have small tables and chairs where you can eat their food. But notice how small the bowl is. My goal in Taiwan was to eat as much as possible so smaller bowls were a good thing since you still had room for something afterwards.
Fried wontons! Why have I never had these before. Sooo good. One was pork filled, the other, curry! Delish.
Okay, this is pretty gross. Like a squid scarecrow or fried snowman or something….
A bing seller! It was hard to walk by someone selling a bing and not buy it. So I did.
Hot, fresh roasted peanuts.
Also introduced to me by my friend Jaddie, I actually forget what these are. They might look like mini french toasts, but of course weren’t. They are savory flavored and covered in a tangy sauce. I loved this huge mound at the entrance of the tiny shop.
Phew–that’s a lot of pictures (and I have plenty more), but I’ll stop there. See how varied and delicious the street food in Taiwan is? And really, this is just a small sampling. In fact, I haven’t even shown you my favorite food yet! But they are so good they deserve their own post so you’ll just have to wait and see.